Twenty-seven adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse participated in a pilot study comprising an 8-week mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and daily home practice of mindfulness skills. Three refresher classes were provided through final follow-up at 24 weeks. Assessments of depressive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and mindfulness, were conducted at baseline, 4, 8, and 24 weeks. At 8 weeks, depressive symptoms were reduced by 65%. Statistically significant improvements were observed in all outcomes post-MBSR, with effect sizes above 1.0. Improvements were largely sustained until 24 weeks. Of three PTSD symptom criteria, symptoms of avoidance/numbing were most greatly reduced. Compliance to class attendance and home practice was high, with the intervention proving safe and acceptable to participants. These results warrant further investigation of the MBSR approach in a randomized, controlled trial in this patient population. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 66: 1–18, 2010.
Although research has found that long-term mindfulness meditation practice promotes executive functioning and the ability to sustain attention, the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training have not been fully explored. We examined whether brief meditation training affects cognition and mood when compared to an active control group. After four sessions of either meditation training or listening to a recorded book, participants with no prior meditation experience were assessed with measures of mood, verbal fluency, visual coding, and working memory. Both interventions were effective at improving mood but only brief meditation training reduced fatigue, anxiety, and increased mindfulness. Moreover, brief mindfulness training significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Our findings suggest that 4 days of meditation training can enhance the ability to sustain attention; benefits that have previously been reported with long-term meditators.
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention in the present moment. We investigate the hypothesis that mindfulness training may alter or enhance specific aspects of attention. We examined three functionally and neuroanatomically distinct but overlapping attentional subsystems: alerting, orienting, and conflict monitoring. Functioning of each subsystem was indexed by performance on the Attention Network Test (ANT; Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz, & Posner, 2002). Two types of mindfulness training (MT) programs were examined, and behavioral testing was conducted on participants before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) training. One training group consisted of individuals naive to mindfulness techniques who participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that emphasized the development of concentrative meditation skills. The other training group consisted of individuals experienced in concentrative meditation techniques who participated in a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Performance of these groups was compared with that of control participants who were meditation naive and received no MT. At Time 1, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated improved conflict monitoring performance relative to those in the MBSR and control groups. At Time 2, the participants in the MBSR course demonstrated significantly improved orienting in comparison with the control and retreat participants. In contrast, the participants in the retreat group demonstrated altered performance on the alerting component, with improvements in exogenous stimulus detection in comparison with the control and MBSR participants. The groups did not differ in conflict monitoring performance at Time 2. These results suggest that mindfulness training may improve attention-related behavioral responses by enhancing functioning of specific subcomponents of attention. Whereas participation in the MBSR course improved the ability to endogenously orient attention, retreat participation appeared to allow for the development and emergence of receptive attentional skills, which improved exogenous alerting-related process.
Studies have suggested that the default mode network is active during mind wandering, which is often experienced intermittently during sustained attention tasks. Conversely, an anticorrelated task-positive network is thought to subserve various forms of attentional processing. Understanding how these two systems work together is central for understanding many forms of optimal and sub-optimal task performance. Here we present a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations between mind wandering and attentional states derived from the practice of focused attention meditation. This model proposes four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. People who train in this style of meditation cultivate their abilities to monitor cognitive processes related to attention and distraction, making them well suited to report on these mental events. Fourteen meditation practitioners performed breath-focused meditation while undergoing fMRI scanning. When participants realized their mind had wandered, they pressed a button and returned their focus to the breath. The four intervals above were then constructed around these button presses. We hypothesized that periods of mind wandering would be associated with default mode activity, whereas cognitive processes engaged during awareness of mind wandering, shifting of attention and sustained attention would engage attentional subnetworks. Analyses revealed activity in brain regions associated with the default mode during mind wandering, and in salience network regions during awareness of mind wandering. Elements of the executive network were active during shifting and sustained attention. Furthermore, activations during these cognitive phases were modulated by lifetime meditation experience. These findings support and extend theories about cognitive correlates of distributed brain networks.
In light of a growing interest in contemplative practices such as meditation, the emerging field of contemplative science has been challenged to describe and objectively measure how these practices affect health and well-being. While “mindfulness” itself has been proposed as a measurable outcome of contemplative practices, this concept encompasses multiple components, some of which, as we review here, may be better characterized as equanimity. Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral). In this article, we propose that equanimity be used as an outcome measure in contemplative research. We first define and discuss the inter-relationship between mindfulness and equanimity from the perspectives of both classical Buddhism and modern psychology and present existing meditation techniques for cultivating equanimity. We then review psychological, physiological, and neuroimaging methods that have been used to assess equanimity either directly or indirectly. In conclusion, we propose that equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being, and therefore should be a focus in future research studies.
A review of behavioral and neurobiological data on mood and mood regulation as they pertain to an understanding of mood disorders is presented. Four approaches are considered: 1) behavioral and cognitive; 2) neurobiological; 3) computational; and 4) developmental. Within each of these four sections, we summarize the current status of the field and present our vision for the future, including particular challenges and opportunities. We conclude with a series of specific recommendations for National Institute of Mental Health priorities. Recommendations are presented for the behavioral domain, the neural domain, the domain of behavioral-neural interaction, for training, and for dissemination. It is in the domain of behavioral-neural interaction, in particular, that new research is required that brings together traditions that have developed relatively independently. Training interdisciplinary clinical scientists who meaningfully draw upon both behavioral and neuroscientific literatures and methods is critically required for the realization of these goals.
Meditation refers to a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory practices, which can be classified into two main styles – focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) – involving different attentional, cognitive monitoring and awareness processes. In a functional magnetic resonance study we originally characterized and contrasted FA and OM meditation forms within the same experiment, by an integrated FA–OM design. Theravada Buddhist monks, expert in both FA and OM meditation forms, and lay novices with 10 days of meditation practice, participated in the experiment. Our evidence suggests that expert meditators control cognitive engagement in conscious processing of sensory-related, thought and emotion contents, by massive self-regulation of fronto-parietal and insular areas in the left hemisphere, in a meditation state-dependent fashion. We also found that anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices play antagonist roles in the executive control of the attention setting in meditation tasks. Our findings resolve the controversy between the hypothesis that meditative states are associated to transient hypofrontality or deactivation of executive brain areas, and evidence about the activation of executive brain areas in meditation. Finally, our study suggests that a functional reorganization of brain activity patterns for focused attention and cognitive monitoring takes place with mental practice, and that meditation-related neuroplasticity is crucially associated to a functional reorganization of activity patterns in prefrontal cortex and in the insula.
OBJECTIVE: Positron emission tomography was used to investigate the neural substrates of normal human emotional and their dependence on the types of emotional stimulus. METHOD: Twelve healthy female subjects underwent 12 measurements of regional brain activity following the intravenous bolus administration of [15O]H2O as they alternated between emotion-generating and control film and recall tasks. Automated image analysis techniques were used to characterize and compare the increases in regional brain activity associated with the emotional response to complex visual (film) and cognitive (recall) stimuli. RESULTS: Film- and recall-generated emotion were each associated with significantly increased activity in the vicinity of the medial prefrontal cortex and thalamus, suggesting that these regions participate in aspects of emotion that do not depend on the nature of the emotional stimulus. Film-generated emotion was associated with significantly greater increases in activity bilaterally in the occipitotemporparietal cortex, lateral cerebellum, hypothalamus, and a region that includes the anterior temporal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampal formation, suggesting that these regions participate in the emotional response to certain exteroceptive sensory stimuli. Recall-generated sadness was associated with significantly greater increases in activity in the vicinity of the anterior insular cortex, suggesting that this region participates in the emotional response to potentially distressing cognitive or interoceptive sensory stimuli. CONCLUSIONS: While this study should be considered preliminary, it identified brain regions that participate in externally and internally generated human emotion.
Davidson and Schwartz (1) have proposed a psychobiological analysis of anxiety that emphasizes the patterning of multiple processes in the generation and self-regulation of this state. The present article specifically reviews recent research on cognitive and somatic components of anxiety. A dual component scale which separately assesses cognitive and somatic trait anxiety is described and applied to the study of the differential effects of a somatic (physical exercise) and a cognitive (meditation) relaxation procedure. A total of 77 subjects was employed; 44 regularly practiced physical exercise and 33 regularly practiced meditation for comparable periods of time. As predicted, subjects practicing physical exercise reported relatively less somatic and more cognitive anxiety than meditators. These data suggest that specific subcomponents of anxiety may be differentially associated with relaxation techniques engaging primarily cognitive versus somatic subsystems. It is proposed that relaxation consists of (1) a generalized reduction to multiple physiological systems (termed the relaxation response by Benson) and (2) a more specific pattern of changes superimposed upon this general reduction, which is elicited by the particular techniques employed. The data from this retrospective study need to be followed up by prospective studies to establish the precise mechanisms for these effects.
The response to painful stimulation depends not only on peripheral nociceptive input but also on the cognitive and affective context in which pain occurs. One contextual variable that affects the neural and behavioral response to nociceptive stimulation is the degree to which pain is perceived to be controllable. Previous studies indicate that perceived controllability affects pain tolerance, learning and motivation, and the ability to cope with intractable pain, suggesting that it has profound effects on neural pain processing. To date, however, no neuroimaging studies have assessed these effects. We manipulated the subjects' belief that they had control over a nociceptive stimulus, while the stimulus itself was held constant. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we found that pain that was perceived to be controllable resulted in attenuated activation in the three neural areas most consistently linked with pain processing: the anterior cingulate, insular, and secondary somatosensory cortices. This suggests that activation at these sites is modulated by cognitive variables, such as perceived controllability, and that pain imaging studies may therefore overestimate the degree to which these responses are stimulus driven and generalizable across cognitive contexts.
According to the Perceptual Symbols Theory of cognition (Barsalou, 1999), modality-specific simulations underlie the representation of concepts. A strong prediction of this view is that perceptual processing affects conceptual processing. In this study, participants performed a perceptual detection task and a conceptual property-verification task in alternation. Responses on the property-verification task were slower for those trials that were preceded by a perceptual trial in a different modality than for those that were preceded by a perceptual trial in the same modality. This finding of a modality-switch effect across perceptual processing and conceptual processing supports the hypothesis that perceptual and conceptual representations are partially based on the same systems.
In three experiments, participants received nouns or noun phrases for objects and verbally generated their properties ("feature listing"). Several sources of evidence indicated that participants constructed perceptual simulations to generate properties for the noun phrases during conceptual combination. First, the production of object properties for noun phrases depended on occlusion, with unoccluded properties being generated more often than occluded properties. Because a perceptual variable affected conceptual combination, perceptual simulations appeared central to combining the concepts for modifiers and head nouns. Second, neutral participants produced the same distributions of properties as participants instructed to describe images, suggesting that the conceptual representations used by neutral participants were similar to the mental images used by imagery participants. Furthermore, the property distributions for neutral and imagery participants differed from those for participants instructed to produce word associations. Third, participants produced large amounts of information about background situations associated with the object cues, suggesting that the simulations used to generate properties were situated. The experiments ruled out alternative explanations that simulation effects occur only for familiar noun phrases associated with perceptual memories and that rules associated with modifiers produce occlusion effects. A process model of the property generation task grounded in simulation mechanisms is presented. The possibility of integrating the simulation account of conceptual combination with traditional accounts and well-established findings is explored.
Several authors have argued that because mindfulness training involves repeated practice of the self-regulation of attention, it should lead to measurable improvements in attentional skills and related memory processes. Although a few studies have shown relationships between mindfulness training and performance-based tests of attention and memory, findings are mixed. In the present study, a sample of 33 adults with a long-term mindfulness meditation practice (average duration of 6 years) was compared with a demographically matched sample of nonmeditators on several widely used tests of attention and memory functioning, including sustained attention, attention switching, inhibition of elaborative processing, working memory, and short- and long-term memory. Group differences were nonsignificant for all of the attentional tasks. The only significant group differences were in short-term memory (both free and cued recall) and long-term memory (free recall only). Results suggest that the nature of the attentional and memory processing that is cultivated by mindfulness training requires clarification.
Tasks that tax working memory (WM) have consistently been found to decrease mind wandering. These findings may indicate that maintenance of mind wandering requires WM resources, such that mind wandering cannot persist when WM resources are being consumed by a task. An alternative explanation for these findings, however, is that mind wandering persists without the support of WM but is nonetheless decreased during any demanding task because good task performance requires that attention be restricted from task-unrelated thought (TUT). The present study tested these two competing theories by investigating whether individuals with greater WM resources mind-wander more during an undemanding task, as would be predicted only by the theory that WM supports TUT. We found that individuals with higher WM capacity reported more TUT in undemanding tasks, which suggests that WM enables the maintenance of mind wandering.
Objectives: To examine whether mindfulness meditation (MM) was associated with changes in objectively measured polysomnographic (PSG) sleep profiles and to relate changes in PSG sleep to subjectively reported changes in sleep and depression within the context of a randomized controlled trial. Previous studies have indicated that mindfulness and other forms of meditation training are associated with improvements in sleep quality. However, none of these studies used objective PSG sleep recordings within longitudinal randomized controlled trials of naïve subjects. Methods: Twenty-six individuals with partially remitted depression were randomized into an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course or a waitlist control condition. Pre-post measurements included PSG sleep studies and subjectively reported sleep and depression symptoms. Results: According to PSG sleep, MM practice was associated with several indices of increased cortical arousal, including more awakenings and stage 1 sleep and less slow-wave sleep relative to controls, in proportion to amount of MM practice. According to sleep diaries, subjectively reported sleep improved post MBCT but not above and beyond controls. Beck Depression Inventory scores decreased more in the MBCT group than controls. Improvements in depression were associated with increased subjective sleep continuity and increased PSG arousal. Conclusions: MM is associated with increases in objectively measured arousal during sleep with simultaneous improvements in subjectively reported sleep quality and mood disturbance. This pattern is similar to the profiles of positive responders to common antidepressant medications.
OBJECTIVES: To examine whether mindfulness meditation (MM) was associated with changes in objectively measured polysomnographic (PSG) sleep profiles and to relate changes in PSG sleep to subjectively reported changes in sleep and depression within the context of a randomized controlled trial. Previous studies have indicated that mindfulness and other forms of meditation training are associated with improvements in sleep quality. However, none of these studies used objective PSG sleep recordings within longitudinal randomized controlled trials of naïve subjects. METHODS: Twenty-six individuals with partially remitted depression were randomized into an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) course or a waitlist control condition. Pre-post measurements included PSG sleep studies and subjectively reported sleep and depression symptoms. RESULTS: According to PSG sleep, MM practice was associated with several indices of increased cortical arousal, including more awakenings and stage 1 sleep and less slow-wave sleep relative to controls, in proportion to amount of MM practice. According to sleep diaries, subjectively reported sleep improved post MBCT but not above and beyond controls. Beck Depression Inventory scores decreased more in the MBCT group than controls. Improvements in depression were associated with increased subjective sleep continuity and increased PSG arousal. CONCLUSIONS: MM is associated with increases in objectively measured arousal during sleep with simultaneous improvements in subjectively reported sleep quality and mood disturbance. This pattern is similar to the profiles of positive responders to common antidepressant medications.
This article examines how power influences behavior. Elevated power is associated with increased rewards and freedom and thereby activates approach-related tendencies. Reduced power is associated with increased threat, punishment, and social constraint and thereby activates inhibition-related tendencies. The authors derive predictions from recent theorizing about approach and inhibition and review relevant evidence. Specifically, power is associated with (a) positive affect, (b) attention to rewards, (c) automatic information processing, and (d) disinhibited behavior. In contrast, reduced power is associated with (a) negative affect; (b) attention to threat, punishment, others' interests, and those features of the self that are relevant to others' goals; (c) controlled information processing; and (d) inhibited social behavior. The potential moderators and consequences of these power-related behavioral patterns are discussed.
We examined a non-specific or relationship variable as well as a specific or technical variable (i.e. homework compliance) and their prediction of cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) outcome for children with anxiety disorders. Therapist ratings of the therapeutic relationship (TR), but not homework compliance (HC) predicted CBT outcome at posttreatment (n = 138) and at 1-year follow-up (n = 121) for anxious children (aged 9 to 13 years). Findings from this study suggest the therapeutic relationship is a hardy non-specific factor in CBT of anxious children. Implications for the treatment of children with anxiety disorders using CBT and recommendations for research are offered.
<p>Measures of left-right asymmetry in resting brain activity were derived from spectral estimates of electroencephalogram (EEG) alpha-band power density in 13 homologous scalp electrode pairs from 81 right-handed individuals (43 F) on two occasions separated by 6 weeks. At a third, later session, these individuals completed a cognitive task, comparing word-pairs that systematically differed in affective tone. For an extended series of paired-comparisons, the subject chose the one word-pair that 'went together best'. Objectively, associative strength was comparable for both word-pairs. Individuals with relatively greater left-sided anterior frontal resting activity were more likely to select the more pleasant word-pair. Relations between word-pair selection and asymmetry in resting brain activity at central and posterior sites were not significant.</p>
<p>This study evaluated mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a group intervention designed to train recovered recurrently depressed patients to disengage from dysphoria-activated depressogenic thinking that may mediate relapse/recurrence. Recovered recurrently depressed patients ( n = 145) were randomized to continue with treatment as usual or, in addition, to receive MBCT. Relapse/recurrence to major depression was assessed over a 60-week study period. For patients with 3 or more previous episodes of depression (77% of the sample), MBCT significantly reduced risk of relapse/recurrence. For patients with only 2 previous episodes, MBCT did not reduce relapse/recurrence. MBCT offers a promising cost-efficient psychological approach to preventing relapse/recurrence in recovered recurrently depressed patients.</p>
The Indo-Tibetan tradition claims that proficiency in the suggested longevity practices of meditation, diet, and physical exercise (yoga), will result in profound anti-aging, stress-mediating and health enhancing effects. Western biomedical research has begun to demonstrate that the psychobiological states induced and cultivated by cognitive behavioral practices which are emblematic of those contained within the Indo-Tibetan tradition (hypnosis, meditation, visualization, systematic relaxation), indeed do have a profound impact on the body's protective and regulatory systems. Although continued study is necessary, much of the early research illuminating the mechanisms responsible for the life-span extending and health-enhancing effects of these cognitive behavioral practices points to the importance of their anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and antioxidant effects as well as their impact in enhancing the production of endogenous substances that possess general longevity-enhancing, regenerative properties.
Although once considered disruptive, self-conscious emotions are now theorized to be fundamentally involved in the regulation of social behavior. The present study examined the social regulation function of self-conscious emotions by comparing healthy participants with a neuropsychological population--patients with orbitofrontal lesions--characterized by selective regulatory deficits. Orbitofrontal patients and healthy controls participated in a series of tasks designed to assess their social regulation and self-conscious emotions. Another task assessed the ability to infer others' emotional states, an appraisal process involved in self-conscious emotion. Consistent with the theory that self-conscious emotions are important for regulating social behavior, the findings show that deficient behavioral regulation is associated with inappropriate self-conscious emotions that reinforce maladaptive behavior. Additionally, deficient behavioral regulation is associated with impairments in interpreting the self-conscious emotions of others.